Wonder City: Downtown Houston by Vince Balsamo

Houston Tx, 77003

April 2004–Downtown Houston and not just a particular place downtown, but the whole area has always astounded me. I lived in Houston when I was a child and I always wanted to be free to roam around our city streets. Now that I am an adult I can walk through the feet of the immense miracles of engineering we call skyscrapers. It makes me ponder about how strange and great our modern civilization is. Houston has come a long way from the days where there was only one major highway leading into downtown. The accomplishments we hold and the challenges we face in this quickly changing world are awe-inspiring just like the gleaming towers of our skyline. One of my favorite evening activities is driving down I-45 south when the whole area is lit up, exposing the magnificent skyline, illuminating the darkest nights. I often get caught in amazement and have to pull to the side of the road because I can easily forget that I am driving. The towers are just little examples of mankind’s great conquest to improve its society.
One afternoon I Got lost downtown, for some reason I didn’t ask for directions and kept driving. Every few seconds I would glance out my side window and look at the Houston streets. I would admire the historic buildings that are still standing even through the massive times of change and look at the difference in cultures that are separated just by a few city blocks. I pulled up to a light and the street sign said Houston Avenue . Before I started driving again I noticed a gigantic 2-story house right on the corner of the street. When you first look at the House it looks as if someone airlifted it from a suburban area of Houston and dropped it in the middle of downtown. I parked, got out of my car and went inside the giant yellow house. As I stepped on the old wood floors the panels creaked and moaned whispering to me their history. Stanton s is the name of the establishment, it is a take-out/grocery store that has been serving downtown Houston for almost 100 years.

I like to think people will look back on what we have created in wonder, just like tourists when they see the great pyramids of Egypt . The intricate planning and design is similar between the landmarks. Huge buildings, holding thousands of people are carefully sectioned out by almost perfect square blocks. Our city was patiently planned and lined with busy one-way streets that form the make-up of this great masterpiece. These forms stylized with the past visions of great architects make up the best downtown in the country. It is ludicrous to think that these were once foot tall pencil sketches in some great architect’s composition notebook.

Not only are the buildings amazing but I also like being downtown to see the people that inhabit the area. All different types of people commute downtown for its many great shops, restaurants, and extensive business opportunities. Not anywhere else in Houston do you see such diversity in one place, excluding the U of H campus. Not anywhere else do you see business executives and bums walking passed each other in harmony. People are very busy downtown, but I guess that is understandable because Houston is a business capital of the world.

I find that there are many people like me who just wander downtown enjoying the natural beauty. I like to take the time and devour every piece of the scenery and all that comes with it. I feel rejuvenated by the city presence and I head straight to the center of downtown where the white fluffy clouds in the crystal blue sky entertain me as they pass over.

I never see the same person twice downtown, and that can be a drawback because it makes the place impersonal. But just like anywhere else it does not have to be. Houston ’s population is almost at 2 million and a great deal of that population resides downtown. There is always someone interesting that you just may happen to start a conversation and maybe a friendship with as well. There is a stereotype that has been placed on Texas . Anyone who is from a different state will tell you that the people in Texas are friendlier. Having lived in many different states, I can attest that the stereotype is true. Every year downtown Houston holds numerous social events to glorify its diverse cultures. Parades and festivals litter the streets and make it hard to navigate. My favorite festival is the Festa Italiana partly because my family is Italian.

The weather in Houston can be very unpredictable at times and during most of the summer Houston is not a very comfortable place for people to be outside during the day. What is cool about downtown is that the buildings create a shield from the bright and warm sun, cool winds blow through the streets, extinguishing the sticky humid feeling. Despite all the imperfections people are roaming the streets of downtown and there is an increasing amount each year.

All the awesome attractions that are being added downtown give downtown a more appealing look and feel; almost like the area is getting a facelift. Just recently added this year was Bayou Place along with Minute Maid Park and the Reliant stadium. Every time you turn your head it seems a new building is erected. It appears that the space available is diminishing but only to those who are small-minded. Houston architects have developed new and creative ideas for expansion. I can only imagine what other businesses and attractions will come in the future. I hope in ten years downtown Houston will double in size and compete for the Nations largest city. Los Angeles and New York better watch out.

Coming from a West Coast culture,skateboarding has been a pastime for me. I have heard there is no better place to skate in Houston , but downtown. I am unaware of Downtown’s skateboarding policy and laws so I have not yet had the chance to take my board downtown. I can only imagine how fun it would be to carve between buildings and people and across the streets of downtown. I personally think it would be much better than driving or taking the bus.

When I walk the sidewalks, they seem very smooth and I always take the time to appreciate the attention paid to making sure we had designer sidewalk tiling to help show off our great city. There is much construction now and some think it’s a bad thing, but what other city is advanced enough to take on such extensive action in improving their already great city at one time? Houston is also holding the Superbowl this year, in order for a city to be chosen by the NFL committee, that city must pass a very thorough inspection. Houston passed with flying colors. With an addition of light rail transportation, navigation to and from downtown will be made easier, and less complicated.

Even though I cannot say that I am a true Houstonian, I am very proud to say that I live here. Downtown Houston is in no way perfect. It has its many quirks and slight imperfections but the advantages that downtown hold outweigh any problems. Many of the complaints that people have are about construction to make the city better. With great patience the people of Houston know downtown is growing rapidly and getting better with everyday. Sure people can look down on the city and complain but why do they not move? It is because downtown has a special feeling to it that no other city can claim. The people know there is only one Downtown Houston.


Houston Chronicle

Space City



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